The following is adapted from You’re Not a Vanity Purchase.

Have you ever thought to yourself, “I know I don’t look as good as I used to, but I just have to accept it and age gracefully”? Maybe you even feel guilty for wanting to look younger and considering plastic surgery or non-surgical anti-aging procedures. Perhaps you’ve been shamed or mocked by others for even contemplating it.

You’re not alone. A lot of people have worry and guilt when they consider aesthetic medicine or plastic surgery because they get a nagging feeling that maybe it isn’t right to fool with Mother Nature. 

But what exactly is “natural” when it comes to aging? Is “letting nature do its thing” and embracing the extra pounds, dark circles under the eyes, and degradation of your face and body somehow graceful? 

I argue no. We have a long history of intervening in “natural” processes of the body, and plastic surgery is more natural than you might think. Arguably, aging gracefully can mean making use of the cosmetic procedures available to you.

All Medical Treatments Are “Unnatural” Intervention

At the most basic level, the aging process can be seen as a malfunction of tissues. Macroscopic (visible) aging is largely due to the microscopic (invisible) aging of our cells, which happens with repeated division and accumulated mistakes in the DNA. This, of course, is a natural process, but we do all kinds of things to intervene, and so do our cells.

For example, cancers of all types are the result of cell division gone wrong. Cancer is essentially an error in a gene due to cell division, and the error leads to unchecked cell growth. Our bodies recognize this as an aberrancy and summon our immune system, most often successfully, to kill the abnormal cell or cells. However, when our immune system is unsuccessful and cancerous cells go unchecked, the microscopic (invisible/undetectable) disease becomes macroscopic (visible/detectable). 

Of course, while this process is natural, we don’t think twice about intervening with “unnatural” therapies like chemotherapy or radiation to alter the course of this natural event. Medicine, at its very core, is about altering the “natural” course of events. Therefore, by definition, medicine is unnatural if you define natural as “letting nature have its way.”

Medicine inherently involves intervention, whether with procedures, therapies, or medications, to affect disease or alter the process of aging. The idea that one is more dangerous, scarier, or “wrong” because we’re “altering a natural process” is downright ridiculous. 

We take action medically when something malfunctions with our bodies, and we don’t think twice about it. Aging is just a slower, more insidious malfunction of our cells, organs, and bodies on a massive scale, and aesthetic treatments and plastic surgery are just another way of intervening. 

Plastic Surgery Is More Natural Than You Might Think

Maybe it’s not the thought of fooling with Mother Nature that has you worried, but the way that plastic surgery does it. After all, what could be more unnatural or potentially toxic than cutting, stitching, putting toxins in your face, or having gel injected in your lips? It all sounds scary and unnatural, but in reality, plastic surgery may be just as natural and even safer than some of the other things you do to your body right now. 

Do you take any natural supplements, like ginkgo biloba, omega-3 fish oil, etc.? Do they come straight out of the forest and onto your shelf? No, they have to be altered and modified. These “natural” products contain preservatives, additives, and God-knows-what-else so they can be put on shelves. What is considered to be a “natural” supplement is usually far from it.

In the world of plastic surgery, the interventions, injections, and drugs we use undergo rigorous testing and regulation to ensure they are safe and effective. We know exactly what we are putting into people’s bodies, and we know the potential side effects and complications. 

Take Botox, for example. Just the name inspires fear and suspicion. You may say, “Toxin in my body? No, thank you.” Botox contains minute doses of a protein that the Botulinim bacteria produces—arguably a natural ingredient. What’s more, Botox is probably one of the most studied, safest substances in all of medicine.

A lot of the things we do to make people look better are quite natural. Many procedures are simply replacing or redistributing a natural substance in the body. For instance, hair transplantation takes a patient’s own natural hair from areas where the hair is plentiful and transfers it to areas where hair was lost. Even facelifts, which involve cutting and stitching, work with natural principles, repositioning the fat, muscle, and skin back to their natural position before gravity took hold.

Aging Gracefully

Aging gracefully does not mean you need to let yourself go and accept the aging process without intervention. Aging is a malfunction of our tissues that can be alleviated with plastic surgery and aesthetic medicine, just as other conditions can be alleviated by other forms of medical treatment.

The people who come to me for plastic surgery have a different view of what it means to age gracefully. For them, it means the outside should look the way they feel on the inside. They use the power of science and medicine to alleviate the malfunction of the skin, fat, muscle, and bone in our bodies that occurs with advancing age.

Essentially, aging gracefully means using all the medical treatments available to you so that you can feel better, younger, and more vital.

For more advice on aging gracefully, you can find You’re Not a Vanity Purchase on Amazon.

Dr. James C. Marotta is a dual-board-certified facial plastic surgeon on Long Island, New York, with degrees from some of the world’s finest institutions, including Columbia and Yale Universities. Dr. Marotta is a fellow of the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (AAFPRS), and since 2013, he has consistently been named the Best Cosmetic Surgeon on Long Island. Dr. Marotta has appeared in a variety of TV and print media, including Harper’s Bazaar, Huffington Post, and Fox 5 NY. While he is deeply dedicated to his work, family remains the center of Dr. Marotta’s life. He enjoys spending time with his wife and two children, traveling, playing sports, and cooking.